Drilling Technology and Rigs

When considering the most significant aspects of new drilling technology to highlight for SPE readers, the latest downhole tools, rig design, and operational procedures often make the headlines. This year, however, a case can be made that the most profound advancements exceed anything achievable with new tools, procedures, or machines. 

On 29 November, the San Antonio Business Journal reported a major oil company had sold a nearby data center to a West Coast cloud-computing giant in a deal estimated at $100 million. The next day, the companies executed a strategic contract to partner and further implement digitization of upstream assets in a cloud-computing environment. The oil company executive involved said, “We have started digitizing our oil fields but want to accelerate deployment of new technologies that position us to increase revenues, lower costs, and improve safety and reliability of our operations.” Far from an isolated event, this case is but one example of an overall trend revolutionizing our industry. Perhaps this is the dominant technology evolution transforming our landscape today.

Because drilling and well construction typically involve the majority of the cost and risk for upstream projects, this new revolution is inevitably the game changer for overall health, safety, and environment; efficiency; and financial performance on wells. Phrases such as “dawn of the new age of the oil and gas industry” and “the fourth industrial revolution” echoed through halls of SPE events in 2017 and into the new year, with rapid advancements in big-data management, digital connectivity, and high-performance computing (paper OTC 27638). Exciting developments in new downhole tools, fluids, and rig design continue to advance, with gains in safety and efficiency being multiplied by this transformation. The new revolution is also occurring in parallel with accelerated applications of managed-pressure- and underbalanced-drilling technology. The authors of highlighted paper SPE 185283 suggest the benefits of the technique collectively categorized as closed-loop drilling and the new drilling convention are so numerous that, indeed, all future rig operations should be configured as such. Concurrent with these trends toward increased data acquisition, data analysis, and remote control, automation of rig functionality continues as a primary focus and area of great potential across operator, rig-­contractor, and equipment-supplier boundaries.

The 3-year industry downturn persisting through 2017 brought an unprecedented purging of paradigms. But perhaps the extreme pressure to reduce costs and add value has indeed forced the innovation and acceleration being realized today during this new revolution.

This Month's Technical Papers

Closed-Loop Drilling Offers Advantages in Process Safety and Cost Savings

Challenges and Lessons of Implementing a Real-Time Drilling Advisory System

Future Workforce Education Through Big-Data Analysis for Drilling Optimization

Recommended Additional Reading

OTC 27638 The Dawn of the New Age of the Industrial Internet and How It Can Radically Transform the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry by Partha Sharma, DNV GL, et al.

SPE/IADC 184695 Development to Delivery—A Collaborative Approach to Implementing Drilling Automation by Riaz Israel, BP, et al.

SPE 187477 Latest Drilling Techniques Applied to Coring Operations of a Complex Subsurface Geology in WCSB Led to Operational Success and Cost Savings While Setting a Record in North America by Ali Hooshmandkoochi, Seven Generations Energy, et al.

SPE/IADC 184650 The Floating Factory Concept: Engineering Efficiencies Up Front To Reduce Deepwater-Well-Delivery Cost by James Hebert, Diamond Offshore

Michael H. Weatherl, SPE, is an engineering consultant and president of Well Integrity in Scott, Louisiana. He holds a BS degree in petroleum engineering from The University of Tulsa and has been a registered petroleum engineer in Texas since 1993. Before starting Well Integrity in August 2014, Weatherl worked as a drilling and completion team leader for Hess’ New Ventures Unit in Houston following assignments in Norway and Offshore Americas. Before Hess, he worked for 25 years for Chevron, including in a number of positions in production and drilling in Louisiana and Texas. Weatherl is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and serves on the SPE Deepwater Drilling and Completion Conference Committee. He is a 30-year SPE member, has authored several papers, and served as a technical editor for SPE Drilling & Completion from 1991 to 2013. Weatherl can be reached at

Drilling Technology and Rigs

Michael H. Weatherl, SPE, Engineering Consultant and President, Well Integrity

01 February 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 2

No editorial available



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